Indonesian Prefixes

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Indonesian Prefixes

Prefix is an affix attached to the front of a root word that creates a new word. Indonesian uses several prefixes below :




























Ber- is used to construct a verb that means “doing something, being something, have something, or having a certain attribute”.


Example :

Berbahaya (dangerous)           = ber+bahaya (danger)

Berasal (originated)                 =ber+asal (origin)





Usage 1 : to construct a verb from a noun.


Example :

mengebom       (to bomb)        = menge+bom (bomb)

mengelap         (to wipe)          = menge+lap (wipe)


Usage 2: to indicate that the subject of a statement is the one doing the action of the verb


Example :


Saya melihat anjingmu            = I see your dog

meihat = me+lihat


The word “Lihat” is already a verb, meaning “to see”. Here we add the prefix “me” to indicate that “I” am the one who see the dog.




Other examples:

Membuat (to make)     = mem+buat

Melihat (to see)           = me+lihat


Menuai (to harvest)     = men+tuai (the T is dropped)

Menabur (to sow)        = men+tabur (the T is dropped)


Menyamar (to disguise/undercover) = meny+samar (the S is dropped)




Memarkir (to park)      = mem+parkir

Memasang (to put)      = mem+pasang

Memaksa (to force)     = mem+paksa


As you see, the initial P is dropped. But in these examples, the initial P is not dropped.


Memperkosa (to rape) = mem+perkosa

Memperbaiki (to fix)   = mem+perbaiki


Even I don’t know the exact rule for this J but for most cases, the P is dropped. This is also occurred with other letter than P.


Me- has six variation depend on the first letter of the root word which they are attached.


Me-      is used when the following word is started with L, M, N, R, W, Y

Meng- is used when the following word is started with G, H, K or vowels.

Mem-   is used when the following word is started with B F P

Men-    is used when the following word is started with C, D, Z, and T

Meny- is used when the following word is started with S

Menge- is used when the following word is consisted from one syllable only




This prefix is related to me- prefix above. While the me- indicates that the subject is the actor who doing an action , the di- indicates that the subject is the object of an action. A sentence with me+verb is called active sentence, and di+verb is called passive sentence.



Bola dilempar (oleh) Susanti   = The ball is being thrown by Susanti.

Susanti melempar bola            = Susanti throws the ball.




“oleh” is a direct translation of “by”, and may optionally dropped in informal case.



There is also a word “di” to indicate place (in, at, to, and on). This is a word, not an affix, and hence should not be attached to other word. But many Indonesians incorrectly attach it to other word.




Kucing sedang tidur di atas meja (the cat is sleeping on the table)


is often incorrectly written as


Kucing sedang tidur diatas meja


In most cases, the di- prefix is followed by a verb, while the word  “di” is followed by an adverb.




Usage 1 : as a superlative, same as English word “the most, or suffix -est”. This ter- is always attached to an adjective.




Terbaik (best)              = ter+baik(good)

Terkecil (smallest)       = ter+kecil (small)

Terbesar (biggest)        = ter+besar (big)

Tercantik (most beautiful)       = ter+cantik(beautiful)


Usage 2 : as passive form, similar to di- prefix, but used when the actor is not important. In most cases, it is same as the English –ed suffix (or past tense form).


Example :


Terbatas (limited)        = ter+batas (limit)

Terbentuk (formed)     = ter+bentuk (form)

Bumi terbentuk tiga milyar tahun yang lalu = The earth is formed three billions years ago.





Se- prefix is used as substitution for the word “satu” (one).




Seribu              = satu ribu (one thousand)

Sekelas            = satu kelas (one class)

Seragam          = satu ragam (one variety)





Pe- prefix is similar to “-er” suffix in English.


Usage 1 : if attached to a verb, this prefix is used to form a noun that indicates a person or thing that do the verb.


Example :


Pemakan (eater)          = pe+makan(eat)

Pembuat (maker)         = pem+buat (make)

Pencetak (printer)        = pen+cetak (print)


Usage 2 : if attached to an adjective, this prefix is used to form a noun that has the quality or attribute inherent in the adjective.


Example :


Pemanas (heater)         = pem+panas (heat)

Pendingin (cooler)       = pen+dingin (cool)


Prefixes and their variations have a very important role in Indonesian. Once you're done with the Bahasa Indonesia Prefixes, you might want to check the rest of our Indonesian lessons here: Learn Indonesian. Don't forget to bookmark this page.